Excessive fuel assembly vibrations in nuclear reactor cores should be avoided in order not to compromise the lifetime of the assembly and in order to prevent the occurrence of safety hazards. This issue is particularly relevant to new reactor designs that use liquid metal coolants, such as, for example, a molten lead-bismuth eutectic. The flow of molten heavy metal around and through the fuel assembly may cause the latter to vibrate and hence suffer degradation as a result of, for example, fretting wear or mechanical fatigue. In this paper, we demonstrate the use of optical fiber sensors to measure the fuel assembly vibration in a lead-bismuth eutectic cooled installation which can be used as input to assess vibration-related safety hazards. We show that the vibration characteristics of the fuel pins in the fuel assembly can be experimentally determined with minimal intrusiveness and with high precision owing to the small dimensions and properties of the sensors. In particular, we were able to record local strain level differences of about 0.2 μϵ allowing us to reliably estimate the vibration amplitudes and modal parameters of the fuel assembly based on optical fiber sensor readings during different stages of the operation of the facility, including the onset of the coolant circulation and steady-state operation.
Keywords: FBG; experiments; fluid-structure interaction; high temperature; liquid metal flows; operational modal analysis; vibration.